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Editor's Notebook

With Both Feet: Dealers Show Business Success Means Doing Things Differently

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Rare is the spring weekend in northeast Ohio with wall-to-wall pleasant temperatures and no rain. So rare that local brides grit their teeth and light votive candles by the score, hoping their dream day doesn’t become a deluge disaster.

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Indeed, holding a full weekend event in these parts involves more prayer than planning.

Little wonder that Cleveland dealer Jim Enger let out a huge sigh of relief after his early June Kickin’ Asphalt Weekend came to a close. For two and a half days, Enger Auto Service & Tire took over the massive parking lot of a local harness track, filling it with cars, people and good times.

Now, what Enger did was not unusual. Many dealers have special events – at their locations or off-site as Enger Tire did – to build name awareness and support their reputation. And how such events come together isn’t rocket science, especially if you’ve got partners as hungry and aggressive as you are.

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The second largest independent dealer in northeast Ohio, Enger Tire is no small fish, as its 22 retail locations will attest (number 23 will open next month). That makes it a bit easier to get a little help. And it doesn’t hurt that Jim Enger is eager to do things differently, to take a leap once in a while.

Hankook rolled out its special events truck and prepped Mustangs for the weekend. Enger brought out a truckload of Hankook tires to sell on-site. NAPA has long been a loyal supplier, so Enger had a tent sale of NAPA tools and his own branded auto care chemicals. Local high school bands got free stage time, and they brought their friends and groupies. The Northern Ohio Racing Association had a previously scheduled autocross event that weekend, so it was asked to tie-in. NORA helped raise thousands of dollars with charity driving events over the weekend, and brought in more cars and more people. Enger’s crew was on-site to help NORA racers with any tire needs.
One hand helps the other.

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Like I said, Enger understands the value of a good vibe. Enger didn’t sell many tires or tools that weekend, but that wasn’t the point. He and his team – there were probably a dozen Enger Tire employees there all weekend – made a ton of friends and got a lot of local media coverage and positive word-of-mouth mentions.

Across the country, Howard Fleischmann, co-owner of Community Tire & Automotive Service Specialists in Phoenix, is another believer in being different. That is, if being different means being entirely ingrained in the community…hence the name of the business.

Fleischmann is a forward-looking success who sees the value of leading-edge of customer development and service, evidenced by the fact Community Tire was a 2007 Tire Review Top Shop Award finalist and is considered THE go-to tire and service shop by local residents.

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Community Tire was no overnight sensation. When Fleischmann and business partner Kim Sigman took over the struggling Knudsen’s Tire back in 1991, they had their hands full. And they knew their focus had to be 100% on the customer.

“We build our business on image and reputation,” Fleischmann told us. “When a customer enters one of our outlets we want to keep that customer for life.”

That meant digging in and doing things differently. For instance, while many focus on making a good first impression, Fleischmann is equally concerned about making a lasting last impression. Where many get involved in the local community, Community Tire spends tens of thousands of dollars supporting local groups and is a member of every Chamber of Commerce where it has a location. And it even joined the Greater Phoenix Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

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It was no surprise that when we announced our new AskPatty.com for Tire Dealers program back in April, Community Tire was the very first dealer to sign up. And, in just two months, Community Tire became the program’s very first graduate, with five of its stores earning AskPatty Female Friendly Certifications.

Customers come in all shapes and sizes and types, Fleischmann knows. Getting them in and keeping them means doing all the little things. Extra training for employees to keep them on top of their game. The right mix of tires from reliable, forward-looking suppliers. First-class treatment from the initial greeting to making sure each car leaves with freshly cleaned windows and an ice-cold bottle of water.

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“The Customer” is the Alpha and Omega for these dealers, the beginning and the end, the only reason they have been successful. It is always about the customer, and sometimes that means taking that step and reaching out. Enger and Fleischmann know that every new customer will be a customer for life.

Two dealers. Two approaches to “doing things differently.” Two success stories.

What are you doing?

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